The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 1 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 192

by any portion of common
matter, the parts of that fluid, (which have among themselves a
mutual repulsion) are brought so near to each other by the attraction
of the common matter that absorbs them, as that their repulsion is
equal to the condensing power of attraction in common matter; and
then such portion of common matter will absorb no more.

Bodies of different kinds having thus attracted and absorbed what I
call their _natural quantity, i. e._ just as much of the electric
fluid as is suited to their circumstances of density, rarity, and
power of attracting, do not then show any signs of electricity among
each other.

And if more electric fluid be added to one of these bodies, it does
not enter, but spreads on the surface, forming an atmosphere; and
then such body shews signs of electricity.

I have in a former paper compared common matter to a spunge, and the
electric fluid to water: I beg leave once more to make use of the
same comparison, to illustrate farther my meaning in this particular.

When a spunge is somewhat condensed by being squeezed between the
fingers, it will not receive and retain so much water as when in its
more loose and open state.

If _more_ squeezed and condensed, some of the water will come out of
its inner parts, and flow on the surface.

If the pressure of the fingers be entirely removed, the spunge will
not only resume what was lately forced out, but attract an additional

As the spunge in its rarer state will _naturally_ attract and absorb
_more_ water, and in its denser state will _naturally_ attract and
absorb _less_ water; we may call the quantity it attacks and absorbs
in either state, its _natural quantity_, the state being considered.

Now what the spunge is to water, the same is water to the electric

When a portion of water is in its common dense state, it can hold no
more electric fluid than it has: if any be added, it spreads on the

When the same portion of water is rarefied into vapour, and forms
a cloud, it is then capable of receiving and absorbing a much
greater quantity; there is room for each particle to have an electric

Thus water, in its rarefied state, or in the form of a cloud, will
be in a negative state of electricity; it will have less than its
_natural quantity_; that is, less than it is naturally capable of
attracting and absorbing in that state.

Such a cloud, then, coming so near the earth as to be within the
striking distance, will

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